Friday, February 29, 2008

Fallowell and Parkin: King & Queen of cunty-cocky news

News from and about two of my dearest remote friends, the delectable, decadent Molly Parkin and then the fabulous New Zealand expert, Duncan Fallowell.

First, I get this message, apropos Duncan's fab book Going As Far As I Can, from Waterstone's in Notting Hill, following another comment by an anony-mouse that his book had sold out there - "Waterstone's Notting Hill had it, sold out, and we've now replenished, and our customers will surely enjoy the book as much as we do, too." Excellent.

Then my attention is drawn to a very good interview with Duncs - one of many globally - in the Scotsman by Lee Randall - click here. Lee sweetly informs me that "Thanks to you, I have discovered a great writer." This suggests a disposition of keen taste.

And now to Molly. She writes to me:

Darling Ma,

The current Time Out (Feb 27 - March 4) sports a perky interview with me, plus photo of charcoal sketches for my current paintings ... a cunty-cocky display plastering my studio wall in preparation for my next exhibition in July. I'll forward quotes from the gallery, pin-pointing my new direction into visual erotica instead of merely the written word.

It suits me so much better than poetic landscapes or decorative abstracts. Now I'm awash with orgy-filled canvasses, painted from personal memories of my misspent sojourn in Manhattan! Seriously good fun!

Erotica seems my natural domain. Curious that I have only just begun painting it and with such delight and freedom, too.

Bill Packer, the art critic, button-holed me last week in the Chelsea Arts Club to congratulate me on this very recent development, saying, "What the hell took you so long?"

This issue of Time Out is devoted to erotic writings, with a list of the 30 rudest writers. I am thrilled, though surprised, to be included. My 10 comic erotica tomes, written from 1972 - 83 are all long since out of print. Also they have only chosen to interview 3 of us. Myself, the lovely Sebastian Horsley, and Hanif Kureishi.

Which brings me to why I'm writing to you, because your truly inspired interviews last year is what has catapulted me into the public arena again. Have lost count of all the other media pieces since then. Truly! And I thank you for that, darling MA.


Molly's work is at the Ubox Gallery (330 Kennington Lane, London), from 4th until the 25th of July 2008. I shall write again of it nearer the time. I may host a party in Moll's honour. Ubox, click here.

Time Out's top 30 erotic writers (Moll's at 24), click here

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cherie Blair's advert: It will be here

As first revealed on Arcati, Cherie Blair's website is about to be unveiled - my thanks to the Observer diary Pendennis for adding flesh to the bones. It will be here - the address of a former theatre of erotica, apparently - showcasing her charitable work and her memoirs, out in October.

Mark Frith departs Heat

So talented editor Mark Frith is leaving Heat as first predicted on Arcati about two months ago. I said he would go to Mojo. Now I doubt it. Times may have changed at Emap ...

Ricky Gervais: 'I did not attack Little Britain!'

I hear comedy actor Ricky Gervais' PR is phoning media hacks sweetly asking them not to repeat the suggestion that her client ever criticised or attacked Little Britain duo Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Recent reports have suggested that he did.

I must have imagined then that talented Ricky mocked Little Britain in the Extras episode that featured Orlando Bloom. Gervais's character, Andy Millman, sells a sitcom to the BBC but producers force him to drop the script's social observation in favour of catchphrases repeated over and over again. A studio audience wearing T-shirts with the slogans "I'm a lady" [that being a Little Britain joke] and Catherine Tate's "Bovvered?" had a laugh.

The Mail reported Gervais as saying he wanted to have a dig at shows that relied on catchphrases. "People think it's maybe a shortcut - it's chasing ratings, trying to look for a hook. It's not what we do but we're not angry with people that do use catchphrases."

Well, Gervais is not wrong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jeremy Langmead and his problem with prawns

Among the more civilised and talented of senior journalists is Jeremy Langmead, editor of the resurgent British Esquire. His love of white, cleanliness, clean lines, no clutter – does he, I wonder, stalk his offices in pink Marigolds? – holds a certain fascination for it suggests a little eccentricity tacked to the talent: you can never be too eccentric in my brain and there’s not nearly enough of it – eccentricity, that is.

But in an interview yesterday, in the glam-loving Indy, there was this passage: “When Esquire spread word of its new higher-brow era, by hosting a party for key contacts, Langmead sent out an email to staff telling them they weren't to eat any of the food. Things aren't so bad at the National Magazine Company that the grub had to be rationed, Langmead had other concerns. ‘If you're entertaining [on behalf of the] magazine and you have an advertising client or a writer coming up to you and you have a huge prawn canapé sticking out of your mouth it's not a good look is it, – you know, excuse me, hang on – so I just think: No food in public.'"

This is very odd indeed and I would ask him to think again. An integral part of effective socialising is the ritualised sharing of an experience - and eating and drinking at parties are staples of this activity. The Queen is perfectly capable of nibbling at canapés while making enquiries into your excuses for living; and, for people of a certain class, seasons are dedicated to the joys of synchronised mastication in stylish settings. Friendly sentiments usually flow from such congress. Business empires may collude successfully in price-fixing after something as trifling as a heartily shared breakfast of grapefruit and runny egg-yoked toast to the hotel strains of Michael Bublé.

So, I’m at a loss to understand Mr Langmead. Is it, perhaps, that, though he edits an upmarket magazine, he does not trust his staff to handle finger food inconspicuously while engaged in business-driven badinage? A clue lies in that “huge prawn canapé sticking out of your mouth” statement of his. Is it that his staff do not know how to consume a huge prawn adroitly while talking?

If, so, I should advise him at job interview stage to place an important hurdle before candidates. After asking them which university they attended, whether they are related to anyone famous and (indirectly) who they like to cock or cunt, they should then be presented with a big steaming dead prawn on a silver plate and invited to eat it while continuing to answer quasi-legal questions about ancestor worship. Those who allowed prawn shell to accrete around the mouth, or permitted spindly pink prawn legs to plummet (alliteration!) to the floor, would be plainly unsuitable.

For you see, I can’t think of anything more off-putting than eating at a party while my hosts stand about glaring at me hungrily and voyeuristically. It seems faintly creepy, like guzzling in front of a TV while images of starving kids devour you, and in such a situation I should surely make my excuses after a few minutes and depart.

Listen to Madame Arcati, Jeremy. Prawns are the way.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hanif Kureishi: Fuck cover features an orgy

How many different sexual positions can you count on the cover of Hanif Kureishi's new novel, Something To tell You? Missionary, doggie, fellatio, threesome ... at least 12 different ones, but then there are the title letters to consider. I got confused after a while, and I suspect some repetition.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Duncan Fallowell: A polysexual maverick visits New Zealand

Going As Far As I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book by Duncan Fallowell. Published by Profile Books, £12.99. To order, click here

Quite a few New Zealanders raged about Going As Far As I Can even before it came out, sight unseen. Premature newspaper hype about the book seemed to activate a national inferiority complex and grown men and women mutated into the green inky anony-mice. Now that it is out, can you find a copy to rage about? Amazon’s stock is currently running on empty – more to rage about - on account of high volume interest. But I’ve got a copy and I’ve read it, so here we go …

To begin with, is it a mystery tour? The front cover fails to tell you where this “ultimate travel book” wishes to take us. This is no accident, of course. Instead, a Hockney-ish sea painting - all vibrant, seductive, sunny colours - invites us to eye-stroll through a telescope suburban doorway towards an island vista. This is called glamour and NZ I’m afraid to say is one of the perceived blokes of nations. It certainly ain't London. So, can an exotic, quixotic, polysexual old-soul maverick (and a First World cultural chauvinist, by the way) like Fallowell make a fancy flash-lit red carpet of this beige-sounding land? Well, if anyone can do it, it’s fabulous Fallowell.

The death of a close friend of his gives life to the enterprise: she has left him some money in her will and, before she passes, he tells her that with it he will embark on a long-haul trip to end all long-haul trips. So off he flies - his eye alighting on the erotic tum pelt of a young male fellow passenger - and soon enough learns that in this new alien place he'll turn into a flambéd corpse without his "cancer hat".

The very novelty of new names and characters intrigues him. But, as if to jump-start his imaginative interest in NZ, he begins by perversely retracing the steps of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on their antipodean tour of 1948 (the year of Fallowell's birth). This takes him to Auckland's hidden-away St James Theatre where they once played. His reaction to its abandonment, as his guide switches on the lights to reveal its unloved yesteryear grandeur, is like that of a bereaved mummy elephant standing forlornly over her dead calf. He trumpets his incomprehesion at the property development hell of NZ's cityscapes. This sets the mood for the entirety of the book: all in all, NZ is an architectural and cultural mess, at a loss with itself since it parted company with its parent First Worlds. (Pause to rage ... )

And for the reader, that's where the fun starts. Fallowell never writes better than when his emotions are immediately engaged - by rage, rapture, whatever. "I didn't speak for a while," he writes of his moments in the dead theatre. "It had been a long time since I was so affected by a decayed, forgotten palace ... " His capacity to feel intensely finds full expression in evocative prose that's best described as icily sulphurous: in his hands the St James Palace comes to life, full of reproach to the dull denizens outside in its baroque, unappreciated beauty; a sullen character of its own.

Thereafter he takes off in buses, trains and hire cars for a rich series of encounters and collisions with the natives. The key word here is collisions. Throw Fallowell into or against foreign situations and enjoy the resultant spectaculars! In this instance, the Maoris provoke his snobbish scorn. Advised by a pal to read some Maori writers, he samples the work of Patricia Grace but dismisses its "Plain Jane prose". Later, he dilates on the claim of racism against Maoris in NZ: the trouble with the Maoris, he writes, is that they want to have their cake and eat it: to "enjoy the fruits of prosperity while standing aloof from it." That, dangerously, leads him to forge a connection with the state of immigrant Muslims in Europe. "Prosperity is not an accident," he reminds. He writes as a man looking down, rather than as a man on an equal footing.

During one particularly bad bad hair day, he rages against New Zealanders in general: "I'm fed up with people being fat and ugly and covered in tattoos." It is this line that has infuriated the anony-mice. But the NZ media missed out the next line: "I'm fed up with my own company." Yep, it was one of those days. He was pissed off with everything.

He goes onto make even more trenchant and general observations, however: "Anyone successful appearing on radio or television repeatedly makes down-home cringes, honky-tonk obeisances to ordinariness, to prove that he or she has not got above themselves. No one is allowed to soar." Here is the cultural imperialist in full song, revelling in the joys of intellectual display and achievement. But, Duncan, you did go to Oxford. Do behave.

A journey with Duncan Fallowell - and do catch up with his brilliant To Noto and St Petersburg travel books - would not be the same without the endless discursion and distraction. His interest in New Zealander Katherine Mansfield prompts a memory of lunch with octogenarian novelist Francis King who told him he could still cock-cock without Viagra. Fallowell's search for gay stranger sex - "anything goes but no anal" - adds a primal layer to the trek: in his encounters he seeks both relief and fast-track intimacy of souls, so is forever left disappointed. He is, after all, a romantic. He half hints that the more salacious detail is being held back for another time, another book.

If you like your prose journeys literal and linear, rather than lateral and visceral, then Fallowell is not for you. Stick to the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide brands. Speaking for myself, I relished every moment of this book: it interested me in a land that had held no interest for me. Fallowell's route leaves its own flash-lit red carpet in its wake. It is the gaudiest of additions to the Thubron-Chatwin-Morris library. It left me panting for more.

To order, click here

My interview with Duncan Fallowell, click here

Friday, February 22, 2008

The ex-editor and the dominatrix

Which former national newspaper editor (NB: of which nation?) enjoys the services of a dominatrix - but doesn't know that "she" has yet to have the op?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Perez Hilton hijacks British gossip!

Perez Hilton was on British telly this morning having attended the Brit Awards ... "Nadine from Girls Aloud wasn't there ... she's a hoot ... maybe she's going to leave the band ... and I met Amy, she didn't seem to be all there, I think she maybe on methadone or a drug substitute ... she only had one day of rehearsals because she missed the first day with Mark Ronson, she was, er, drunk ... Kylie had her own after-show party ... I love Leona Lewis and not giving her any awards was a way of punishing her because she came up from a talent show ... she could be the new Whitney Houston, she didn't do any parties ... this morning she flew to Africa for Sport Relief ... oh and Macca came up to me and said: 'Oh, you're the fella I think I've read you' ... he likes me because I always slag off Heather Mills ... I think I upset Vic Reeves because I didn't know who he is and I said I know Matt Lucas and David Walliams and he said they started out on my show ... "

The swine has just invaded the UK! He's like an American version of Vicki Pollard but makes some kind of sense, and I hate his chavvy orange hair, but he's got nice Pearl Dropped gnashers and I rather suspect he's about to get his own TV show in Blighty ... Check Into ... Perez Hilton ... and omigod he's infected me with his way of talking ...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to save rainforests, personally

Want to stop feeling useless in the face of global suicide and personally save rainforests? For just £35 you can save half an acre and lock in 130 tonnes of global warming fart gas. With Cool Earth you choose where to spend your money and can view your saved bit of forest on Google Maps. You even receive news about your sylvan, fresh air domain. Go, do it, click here.

(I have donated my time in writing the above instead of running yet another knocking David Montgomery piece, the human, thin, expression of fartiness. For news of his latest disaster, his failure to comprehend his fellow Man and Woman and his sheer predictability, click here)

Cherie Blair to launch an advert

I hear that Cherie Blair is about to launch her own website - listing her various causes, but also, incidentally, to advertise her upcoming memoirs. It's not this, but I'm sure we'll get the link shortly.

The Screws makes up another story

The News of the World said the Maccas had agreed on a £65m settlement. Made up. For more about fake news in the world of dead trees media get a copy of Flat Earth News.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Katie Price: 'I write diaries not autobiographies'

David Sexton – probably the shrewdest literary editor on a UK mainstream newspaper (oh, yes, the Evening Standard – nearly forgot to mention) – quite rightly applauds Katie Price for her literary savvy as the third instalment of her memoirs, Pushed To The Limit, bounces off the shelves.

As he says, she’s the queen bee of book sales yet has never written a word herself – that’s all due to the doctor skills of ghostie Rebecca Farnham. Mr Sexton maybe being slightly funny but he’s right to judge that, unlike so many other writers, she knows how to market her celebrity: her books are just extensions of gossip columns, he thinks. But Katie herself is an even keener labeller of her product.

Price, aka Jordan, told me last week that her publishers Random House insist on calling her latest book an autobiography. “But it isn’t,” she said. “It’s a diary. I talk into a dictaphone for two years and each month someone takes the tape away and something’s done to it. I’ve started talking to my dictaphone for my fourth diary that’s out in two-and-half-years’ time.”

A diary! Of course! At her current rate, and given a normal lifespan (let’s say 87 years from her current age of 29 years) we can look forward to at least another 27 or 29 "memoirs" or updates (one every two years over the next 58 years). In intervening periods there will be beauty and lifestyle books and various spin-offs from TV, internet, what-have-you, special life episodes, all written up by highly educated ventriloquists who can slip into the attitude and mode of their host. Perhaps every 10 years, her updates will be married into collectors' editions (leather bound) and in time these could become the best authority on celebrity cock size. She is nothing if not methodical in that respect: the new Masters & Johnson for the 21st Century.

Given the sheer greedy volume of her life, I wouldn't hold out much hope that husband Peter Andre will be able to keep up. No wonder she wants four more kids.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Ammys: First Oscars for amateur porn stars!

Forget about the Baftas (that's easy), the Razzies (yer wha'?) and the Oscars ("I'd just like to thank [sob]... ") and catch the ... Ammys! Yes, the first Annual Amateur Adult Film Awards are to be held in April at EXXXOTICA in Miami Beach, Florida. Categories include Best Soloist (male), Best Soloist (female), Best Blow Job, Best Rug Munch, Worst Lighting, and much much more! So trim those pubes and buy those lubes ... and find out more here.

(Arcati only asks that amateurs keep whatever they do to five minutes or less. Is there anything more boring than watching some tart sucking a dick for 15 minutes? Nor is the sight of a bottom bobbing about in a 25 watt twilight between two paralysed legs akimbo [resembling wilted Mother's Day roses] in any way erotic. Young male soloists should not be too attentive to personal hygiene - or risk the suspicion of professionalism. If accompanying music is really necessary, a cheap radio on a side table should be visible to account for it. Crucially, women should always fail to achieve orgasm)

Madonna: Filth & Wisdom and press cunnilingus

Pour yourself a cognac or whatever and sit back and watch a movie press conference, in particular Madonna's Berlinale one for her film - marking her directorial debut - Filth & Wisdom. Pay especial attention to the international media audience members and their arse-lick whistly reaction to Her Madge-ness: having attended Cannes more times than I would wish to remember, I can attest to the craven attitude hacks have to celebrity in proximity. When I was once slightly rude to that great fake David Cronenberg, in the presence of the legendary moderator Henri Behar, a Variety hack did everything but call for my public execution, such was his hysterical identification with luminosity in the celluloid swamp (as well as his self-importance).


Part 1
Click here. Madonna: "We are in charge of our destiny and we're kidding ourselves if we think we're not" (she pulls a funny face to defuse a moment of seriousness and show she's human; audience applauds)
Part 2
Click here. Madonna: "The film is about the duality of life and our struggle with that duality. You can find enlightenment in ... wisdom and in filth." "Opinions are like assholes, right?"
Part 3
Click here. Madonna: "Britney was very generous". "Secretly I want to be a gypsy ... there's a kind of authenticity in the gypsies I have met around the world." "So, right, what was the first question?"
Part 4
Click here. Madonna: "When you're the director you're the visionary." "I quite like London ... it's cosmopolitan." "I look forward to making more music and more films."

(Her Malawi doc will be shown at Cannes in May)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Susan Hill: 'I'm disappointed with Nicky Haslam ...'

Dear Madame Arcati

I was extremely disappointed when Mr Haslam decided not to publish his autobiography after all. I was all set to review it for a posh broadsheet newspaper in what the lit ed called 'a fascinating match.'

Perhaps Duncan will give us his memoirs instead.


Andrew Neil: Polishing the trophies

I must commend Rob McGibbon's video interview with Andrew Neil on the former's new and enterprising Access Interviews site. It is quite illuminating.

Filmed in December last year Neil reveals that he attended a Private Eye lunch only two weeks before, sitting just behind editor Ian Hislop. Apparently the two men enjoy an amicable relationship - they exchange stories when they meet and have a laugh together - which will come as a surprise to many Eye readers raised on the mag's regular and teasing misspelling of Neil's name ("Neill") and the much-published photo of him in a vest with an "Asian babe" by his side - in fact an Afro-American friend of his (and not old girlfriend Pamella Bordes) who was the "No 1 make-up artist in America". Why, she even made-up Barbara Walters!

He wasn't too impressed by the Eye lunch. He expected it to leave him fizzing with hot goss but it failed to: "I was a little disappointed". A pity Madame Arcati wasn't there then - though to be fair, an Eye poppet did invite me to a lunch just after I first burst forth on the blogosphere. I declined due to a wardrobe confusion.

One engaging aspect of Neil's character is his need to remind us constantly of his professional successes, his in-demand lifestyle, his Tyler Brûlé-type weekly globe trotting (New York, Dubai, London, etc), the two or three TV shows he had to film in one day, the 19-hour workdays, the blah-de-blahs and etcs. This used to be called boasting but that's an inadequate and blunt word. Neil is a tremendous success by anyone's reckoning: but the self-advertisements alert us to the much-polished career trophies standing on his mental mantelpiece, arranged a little too ostentatiously. Perhaps he checks his reflection in their surfaces once too often. Still, his self-confessed Mr Angriness is the greater worry.

Rob asks him: What happens after death? "Nothing" he replies. For once being a know-all fails him.

To view the Andrew Neil movie, click here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Nicky Haslam: 'I am the new Jerry Hall'

My darling and artistic friend Fish has a blog which I think uniquely has three full stops in its name: Suck. On. That. Do click through to her movie of Nicky Haslam in which he declares himself the "new Jerry Hall" on account of his sitting next to Mick Jagger at some do. Click here. (Post 69, Feb 11 '08)

PS I understand that Nicky and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter have been in cahoots of late - possible discussions of a specially adapted extract from Nicky's unpublished memoirs? I would most certainly buy that copy. VF's latest Hollywood edition is pretentious shit, btw. Getting a bunch of young actors to pose in photographic tableaux vivants of classic scenes from Hitchcock films is soooooooooo boring and old. Annie Leibovitz is such a tart, especially after sucking up to old Liz II for that recent TV bio-doc - she should be ashamed of her harlotry. Bloody Queens.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Liza Minnelli: A voice of concern

Just caught Liza Minnelli "singing" Cabaret on TV prior to her tour. These days she holds a note in the manner of a gargler, and I see she's had a bit more work done on the clowned up mug - the pity is that her black polo neck jumper stopped only at her chin. It's all very sad.

The New Statesman and Empress Madame Arcati

Do read Duncan Fallowell’s marvellous diary in this week’s New Statesman – Scrooges can click here.

His first item tackles the verminous anony-mice of the internet (I know them soooooooo well) who have sent him abusive mail over his (still) unpublished New Zealand book Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book. In the course of this he touches upon the “two empresses of the blogosphere, Susan Hill and Madame Arcati”. Other than the fact that he lists our names in the wrong order – and Susan is too pacific a person to be called an empress; she is more a Queen (but should at least be made a Dame [Dame Susan Hill, mm, yes ...]) – Madame Arcati is pleased to appear in the Staggers’ pages, particularly on the day its editor John Kampfner has resigned. I’ll come back to him in a minute.

But anyway, Empresses Madame and Susan are name-checked for their appeal to their vast publics (hello Quebec!) to send comforting “online hugs” to Duncan as the ghastly, cowardly anony-mice nibbled away at him with their blunt yellow teeth over a book they have yet to read. Such was the response – and such our influence – that he ended up feeling “buried alive in chocolate truffles”. There’s no pleasing some people.

But anyway, back to Mr Kampfner. Yes, he’s gone! Was it as recent as the summer of 2006 that he delivered a triumphalist speech at a Statesman party over the increase in circulation (25k to 30K a week I think)? Tesco paid for the champagne then and the Hamiltons hustled about. At last summer’s do Virgin paid for the champers and the Hamiltons hustled about (see my party pieces on labels). At the latter knees-up Kampfner was plainly subdued, his speech perfunctory, his boss Geoffrey Robinson faintly sarcastic about a throne and his editor. An empress of pre-resignation body language I feared then that he was not long for this world. He lasted longer than I expected. A staffer told me that the two men were at odds over budgets.

As Kampfner spoke my eyes were drawn to columnist Suzanne Moore's fuck-me shoes and their gorgeous lace-ups: I was rendered deaf. Though I would deny being lesbotic I did feel a funny tingling - my uterus sort of sighed - and I imagined her heels were six inches long, which is good length for all sorts of different things. She subsequently corrected me on this in a published message.

May I suggest Paul McCartney buy the magazine off Robinson once he’s given Heather her £80m (the global prayer meeting went well, thank you)? I think Macca would be perfetto.

Kampfner glammed up the Staggers: he ushered in the nice silky paper. His stand-out piece was the Tony Blair wars report which listed the numbers of the dead from his various military entanglements. He brought in Julian Clary – a feline diarist of minor absurdities - but failed to sign up Mr Fallowell as the magazine’s travel editor. What a loss. Tsk. His worst mistake was letting go arts writer Ben Dowell – who I hear it rumoured has embarked on a mini-me adventure. I prefer cats myself.

Kampfner’s gone but he’ll be back in a senior role on a newspaper. He has a loud voice, the requisite certainties and lovely big ears. If he wants his horoscope done, he’ll have to send his birth details.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

John Gielgud's anonymous hand jobs inspire a play

One play I have marked for my attention is Nicholas de Jongh’s Plague Over England due to open on February 27 at the Finborough Theatre, London SW10. Its inspiration is John Gielgud’s conviction for opportuning “male persons for immoral purposes” (ie a quick hand job and a ta-ta for the rest of time) in witch-hunty 1953. The case nearly destroyed the actor’s career. But it didn’t of course. He got away with it for another near half century, like certain other actors I could name.

I must congratulate de Jongh on his courage: he is after all a particularly waspish theatre critic and perched at London’s premier regional newspaper, the much-revived Evening Standard. Many a thesp loathes him which is all to the good: the mummers are far too powerful these days what with their magazine deals and growing privacy laws and ghosted memoirs.

In writing his play de Jongh wanted to portray to young people Gielgud “as a victim of those viciously intolerant times; to highlight his stoicism when a deluge of moralistic fury was heaped upon him by guardians of morality, and fellow actors tried to get him expelled from Equity, the actors’ union.”

A laudable purpose at least. Just as interesting is the problems de Jongh encountered trying to get it staged – and he a household name, at least around Kensington and Soho! One director demanded £80,000 within seven days to put it on. We shall see whether it was worth the writing and the struggle.

Madame Arcati will be a fair but strict reviewer. My torch pen stands poised ...

For more about the play and tickets click here

Please pray for Heather Mills McCartney

Would followers of the cult of Arcati please think of Heather Mills at 3pm today and wish her the £80m she deserves from that old skinflint Macca (worth a billion quid or $2 billion for my American friends). Visualise tons of coins raining down on her.

Please allow for different time zones for this unique prayer meeting: our group energy will help the poor unrepresented poppet against those Macchiavellian QCs and solicitors he's got lined up against her. It's almost like Erin Brockovich. Who should play Heather in the movie reconstruction of this high drama? - Sandi Toksvig would be perfect. Tony Curtis would be plausible as Macca, creaking along the echoey corridors of the Royal Courts of Justice as the change in his pockets ching-chings.

(Sandi should have been the new Miss Marple incidentally, and should be the next Doctor Who. There's nothing that woman can't do)

The media lawyer Mark Stevens (who needs to lose weight have a hair cut) called Macca a "deity" on TV yesterday. Yes, he's the God of Money.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jasper Gerard's (bad) back!

Regular Arcati readers will be familiar with my interest in the life and times of Jasper Gerard. While he toiled to be liberal and enlightened at the Observer under Reichsmarshal Roger Alton (“Leck mich am arsch!”), conqueror of Iraq, I was brutal. I mocked his heroic attempts at wit, I rolled about on the carpet – in the manner of the Pink Panther’s chief inspector Charles Dreyfus (played splendidly by Herbert Lom, btw) - at the news of his humorous terrorist novel (a work-in-progress “leaked” by himself to the superior Londoners’ Diary, if memory serves). I took no prisoners as I reminded the dead wood word-grazers that he had once pretended to interview the late Sir Peter Ustinov in a foreign place when in fact he was loafing about in Wapping interviewing Sir Peter Ustinov.

But that’s all behind me now. Jasper has made landfall at the Telegraph – and how that newspaper sets him off to best advantage! He has finally found his home, his very own Neverland, where his certainties about sex, race, pikeys, clitorades (the plural of clitoris?) etc may perhaps be better understood. And I was alarmed to learn within its pages that he has suffered from a bad back almost forever. He admits to his public: “I first injured my back 15 years ago while pushing my 1968 Jaguar ... When I got home I was in such agony, I was virtually on all fours, and only male pride stopped me crying.”

In my experience Jaguars are meant to be driven, not pushed – but hush, Arcati! Not for you to reason why. The Jaguar reference instantly places him demographically in Telegraph-land; he would never have got away with such an admission at the Observer where everyone drives a Citroën. I’m sure of it. The walking about on all fours is a touch of genius: don’t all Telegraph readers prefer their doggy-woggies and horsy-worsies (I’ve just read Russell Brand’s Booky Wooky)? The only slip up here is not crying. Just as pink is now the colour of dynamism, so boo-hooing is the true mark of a man (but softly, with silent shoulder shrugs, to suggest containment of strength - none of your I-Love-Lucy wailing, bitch).

Turns out that the poor poppet has a slipped disc and it’s awfully painful. He tried everything including painkillers, osteopathy – some success there - but gradually it got better by farting around, getting up in the morning, etc, and now he solicits massages from his sainted wife who I believe is also proficient in accountancy.

“With back pain, like alcoholism, it is rash to declare oneself cured,” he writes prior to sign-off. “But for now, it seems bad backs are behind me.” Mmm, I see he hasn’t lost that sense of humour. Pity.

Monday, February 11, 2008

There Will Be Blood - and the cool classification

I’m surprised there was no fuss attending the curious case of the BBFC’s classification of There Will Be Blood – the latest movie vehicle opportunity for Daniel Day-Lewis (who has just won the Best Actor Bafta) to hog out everyone else and show what a big cock he is. It’s not acting, it’s only controlled bipolarism. His Jupiter in Virgo makes him perfectionist, see. It’s not him acting, he’s just a celestial automaton.

Originally the British censor gave it a 12A. But following a complaint by its “submitting company” (Paramount Vantage? Ghoulardi? Miramax?) it raised the cert. to 15. One is tempted to be impressed by the right-thinking attitude of the movie-makers - doubtless some astrological shift accounts for the topsy-turvy – but cynical old Arcati can’t help but wonder whether 15 sounds more cool than the Disney catchment aud of 12A. 15 presses the right machismo buttons while 12A is the land of nancy.

I hadn’t realised that the BBFC allows itself to become part of the marketing drive of movie producers. Given the peculiarity of its altered decision, why didn’t it publish the reasons advanced by the submitting company for raising the certificate?* I would like to know if producers now accept a link between their violent inventions and street thuggery in the shopping malls, perpetrated by thick hoodie fil - oops, I must stop sounding like the Express.

Leo DiCaprio had a laugh at Day-Lewis’ expense a few years ago when I interviewed him in Cannes for the similarly brutal Gangs of New York in which D-L played a homicidal butcher. “We didn’t see a great deal of Dan,” he said. “But we could always hear him sharpening his knives in his trailer [wink]” How we snickered.

*The BBFC did publish this however: BBFC Guidelines at '12A' state that 'Violence must not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood'. In this film there is one scene in particular in which the main character launches an attack on another, with the bloody aftermath visible. The scene in question depicts a strong moment of personalised violence, in which the character in question is bludgeoned to death, with resultant sight of blood. Although the scene dwells on injuries and blood to a limited extent, as the denoument of the film it is a powerful and disturbing sequence and the overall feeling is that the level of detail shown is too strong for a '12A' audience.

Kamal Ahmed and Flat Earth News

The Indy runs an extract from Nick Davies' excellent Flat Earth News - after reports suggested it wouldn't. Most exemplary. As interesting is the interview with the former political editor of The Observer Kamal Ahmed, preceding the extract. He addresses Davies' allegation that Alastair Campbell gave him sight of the dodgy dossier on a flight to Washington. Ahmed says: "I did go forward and have a discussion with Alastair, and Alastair showed me the front cover of something ... He said to me, 'We're thinking of putting this out'. And I said to him: 'I haven't seen it so I don't know what it is.' That was it. It was less than thirty seconds."

Well, who knows? But Ahmed's version doesn't quite add up. Why would Campbell point to a document and say it was being put out without first saying what it was? Wouldn't the normal response of a journalist be to ask: "But what is it?" Was Ahmed not curious to know why he had been invited to sit with Campbell and the Prime Minister and have his attention drawn to a mysterious document? Why did Campbell invite him up front in the first place?

He further claims he was no closer to Campbell than any other political editor. Is this true when Ahmed admits in the interview telling Campbell whether a particular story would make the splash in the Observer or not?

A more forensic approach to Ahmed might have done him more favours - after all, he may very well be innocent of the charge that he, the former editor Roger Alton and the Observer were a Blair/Campbell lapdog so far as the Iraq War was concerned.

On another level, and as an outsider to this matter, I am struck by the laddism that seems to characterise the Campbell-Ahmed-Alton axis, one forged in a love of footie and cunt and them 'n' us politics. Don't some people ever grow out of the playground mentality? Fucking cock-cunters.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

George Galloway/Ann Widdecombe: Kerching!

Adam Macqueen - his site is on my blogroll - of Private Eye draws my attention to the MPs' Register of Interests (last updated Jan 22, 2008) which provides interesting, if (in some notable cases) not entirely complete, snapshots of the life and times of our elected reps. Socialist George Galloway of Respect and Celebrity Big Brother, in particular, displays an instinct for capitalism that can only be admired ...

Advance on 'I'm not the only one', published by Penguin. (£25,001-£30,000)
Advance on the Fidel Castro Handbook from MQ publishers. (Up to £5,000)
Advance on 'Mr Galloway goes to Washington' from The New Press.
Series of 15 events organised by Clive Conway Ltd. (£10,001-£15,000)
Fees for hosting a radio show every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night on Talk Sport Radio. (£100,001-£105,000)
Fee for appearing on ITV's 'Don't Call Me Stupid'. (£10,001-£15,000) (Registered 26 June 2007)
Fee for presenting Big Brother's Big Mouth on C4. (£35,001-£40,000) (Registered 26 June 2007)
Weekly column in Scottish Daily Record (from 25 June 2007) (£25,001-£30,000)

In a similar class is the Tories' (and TV's) Ann Widdecombe ...

Advance of £100,000 plus performance bonuses from Weidenfeld & Nicholson for third and fourth books.
Booked through Clive Conway Associates:
Series of lectures at theatres around the country, (£15,001-£20,000)
Daily Express columnist. (£45,001-£50,000)
Payment from Channel 4 for appearance on Countdown. (Up to £5,000) (Registered 15 February 2007)
Payment from BBC for appearance in a forthcoming drama series. (Up to £5,000) (Registered 15 February 2007)
Payment from BBC for an appearance on Grumpy Guides. (Up to £5,000) (Registered 28 February 2007)
Payment from ITV for an appearance in a forthcoming series. (£25,001-£30,000) (Registered 28 February 2007)
Payment from Channel 4 for an appearance on Countdown. (Up to £5,000) (Registered 11 June 2007)
Payment from BBC for appearing on What Are You Like? (Up to £5,000) (Registered 11 June 2007)
Payment from Leagas Delaney for appearance in an advertisement. (Up to £5,000) (Registered 30 July 2007)
Payment from Talkback Thames for appearance on Cooking the Books. (£10,001-£15,000) (Registered 4 December 2007)
Payment from Daily Mail for article on 'Cranford'. (£10,001-£15,000) (Registered 4 December 2007)
Payment for appearance on Have I Got News For You. (£5,001-£10,000) (Registered 4 December 2007)
Payment for Daily Telegraph Podcast (from 9 January 2008). (£5,001-£10,000)

That last figure did surprise me. I believe she spoke for about ... 15 minutes? I could be wrong.

Heather Mills McCartney settles for ...

On the eve of Heather Mills McCartney's day in court, turning into a bewigged Cherie Blair to "grill" Sir Paul McCartney for a slice of his fortune, let's remind ourselves of how much the newspapers claim she'll get:

News of the World - reports she wants £80m but will get £20m (Feb 10 2008)
News of the World - Heather accepts a £29m deal (2007)
News of the World - Paul offers Heather £40m deal to keep quiet (Sept 2006)
The Sunday Times - reports Heather wants £85m but Paul will settle only between £13m-20m
Press Association - the settlement could be as much as £60m - "Record $120m payout for Mills"
Sydney Morning Herald - Mills to get £55m
Sunday Mirror - "Heather thinks she can get £200m"
Scotland on Sunday - "£55m"
Glasgow Sunday Mail - "£50m"
The People - Macca's dismissed her £10m kiss-off offer (yeah, right ...)
Showbiz Spy - "$110"
Thaindian News, Thailand - "Heather's agreed to £10m"
NME - Pair agree to £60m divorce deal (2007)
The Sun - "Mucca gets £50 million" (2007)
Daily Telegraph - She could get as much as £70m (2007)
The Guardian - "Lady McCartney could walk away with around £200m despite being married to the former Beatle for just four years" (2006)
The Scotsman - settlement could reach £70m
The Times - Sir Macca offeres Mucca £55m to keep her cake-hole shut (Feb 8 2008)
Daily Mirror - She'll settle for £10m
Heather Mills - "I don't want his money" - GMTV

Etc, etc

For more on Churnalism, read Nick Davies' Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media, click here

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Duncan Fallowell: 'NZ not a philistine hellhole'

This letter from Duncan Fallowell was published in New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times recently in response to the controversy over his (still) unpublished Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book ...

Dear Sir,

I was very saddened to discover the caricature of my travel book which appeared on your front page. You presented a few specific remarks about specific things as my conclusions on the country as a whole and this was terribly unfair, especially as the book has not yet been published and people are not in a position to make up their own minds about it. I did not describe New Zealanders in general as 'fat and ugly'. Nor did I call your country 'a philistine hellhole' - I was as shocked as you that somebody else had done so.

I spent four years working on this book and funded it with my own money and without knowing who might publish it. Would I do all that on a place I regarded as nothing? The result is not the mean thing you imply it is, but a deeply engaged, human and, I hope, humane piece of work.

Life is not black or white, nice or nasty, and neither are countries, and yes, I have been robust at certain points (and even more so with Great Britain). I was particularly upset by the destruction of the historic centres of New Zealand's cities, carried out not long ago by a group of developers, 'the needless destruction of fine things by blind, philistine men' as I put it.

This is the only use of the word 'philistine' in the entire book and more than justified in this case. If my book gives a boost to the conservationists trying to halt further destruction I shall be delighted and so, I suspect, would be the majority of New Zealanders.

My journey through New Zealand was strange and magical and I am still haunted by it. This isn't only because of the geography. It is also because of the history which deeply connects our two countries. I trust my book conveys this.

Yours faithfully,

Duncan Fallowell

Friday, February 08, 2008

Support Susan Hill's Books Behind Bars campaign

If you agree with the statement below, go to novelist Susan Hill's blog and add your name to the posting Books Behind Bars (Feb 7, 2008), click here.


New Zealand: 'Kiwinism turned things ugly'

It's truly heartening to discover just how many New Zealanders read Arcati - who would think that such a warm and inspiring people would find anything of interest in this hellish miasma of real-time satire and idiosyncracy? Yet Duncan Fallowell's (still) unpublished book, Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book, continues to provoke reaction.

Now a New Zealander takes his own people to task ...

New Zealanders really do have a very immature attitude when it comes to criticism. They all say that “we are a pretty easy goin lot here in Godzone”, and yet bleat like sheep when someone points out the obvious. I’ve lived for most of my life here in this country and I’ve enjoyed my time out of it more. One meets the best people from New Zealand overseas.

I find the New Zealand national character to be rather immature. It was developing slowly. It was naïve and shy but New Zealand is a young nation after all. Then about 10 or 15 years ago things turned ugly and Kiwinism started up. It is loutish, arrogant and aggressive identity. New Zealanders believe their own tourist marketing and still walk about going on about how sweet and nice they all are while ignoring the broken Tui beer bottles, tagging on the buildings and an ever increasing murder rate.

They are touchy about people who voice an opinion against New Zealand. People look at anyone who makes a critical social comment as immediately being a total weirdo and they gather around this nay sayer and start a barrage of “facts” about how worse it is in other countries. In other words, “shut up, it might be true but we must keep up the myth”.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Michael Barrymore: 'Lubbock's been kind to me'

Happy to see Michael Barrymore in Surviving Spike at the Theatre Royal Windsor. A comeback via theatre is an excellent plan, and of course he should do Twelfth Night again. More improvisation in Spike – ie unscripted responses to the audience - will compensate for the fact that there's only one Spike Milligan, dead or alive.

Inevitably, as the media have reported, Terry Lubbock was there in a “silent front row protest” though he left in the intermission, professing to be bored. After the performance, Barrymore told me that Lubbock has privately been quite kind to him, in contrast to Lubbock's public allegations that the star knows more about his son Stuart’s death than he lets on. One of the news media - Sky perhaps - suggests that Barrymore acknowledged Lubbock from the stage a number of times, but Barrymore says this is not true – he didn’t see Lubbock in the front row.

Barrymore tells me: “I asked Terry once why he’s always beating me up in the press and he replied it’s the only way to get publicity. He knows I wasn’t involved in Stuart's death. I do feel for him. I support calls for an inquest.”

Another paper, the Mirror I think, claims Julian Clary offered to meet with Lubbock on Barrymore’s behalf when it was known he was in the theatre. I find that hard to believe. Can someone confirm?

Meantime, a Barrymore blog, click here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ally Ross: Ta-ra, chuck

As I’ve hinted on a couple of occasions, Ally Ross, the Sun’s TV critic, has tired of the gig, and now the Guardian confirms.

I’ve often wondered, as I try to source a few of his more elliptical news-driven similes, to what extent he writes over the heads of his core target audience: so many columnists must first please their editor – in the Sun’s case, a highly educated, multi-lingual middle-class girl who seeks séances at Butlin's for audience-soul infusion – and the readers must try to keep up. Ross is perversely anti-tabloid in his reflexes, contemptuous of bimbos and himbos and barely tolerant of soaps and reality TV: you won’t find his sort writing for Inside Soap, that’s for sure. Clever people have to keep interested in their job, even on a tab; one can only hope that the interest of the punters is incidentally caught in sufficient numbers.

I suspect that if press awards were doled out by reader panels, Ross wouldn’t figure even in a commendation list: his is a far too twisted and, er, ratiocinative mind – a word that could lose you an election in a moment. I suppose in my own funny way I’m paying him a compliment.

A delightful tale of treachery - I love it!

Who could I be talking about? A hot British TV face was caught with a hooker some time back by one of the tabs. His representative negotiated to keep him out of trouble with the paper – by supplying a delicious sex story about one of his other no-longer-so-hot TV personality clients. I understand that the sacrificed TV personality was soooooo impressed by the way his PR handled the resultant fall-out that he sent his ambassador a crate of vintage champagne. Bottoms up!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Carnival in Salvador, Brazil: Machismo pathology ...

... watching this makes you wish the alien invaders in Independence Day succeeded, Click here. Watch over a tincture of something strong. Filmed by Mark McGowan.

'Dacre's desk is not Napoleonic' shock claim


Forgive me for focusing on the trivial, but possibly the most striking part of the controversy over Nick Davies's savage attack on journalism, Flat Earth News, is the argument over the opulence of Mail editor Paul Dacre's office.

Mary Riddell writes in the Observer:

"In the section analysing Dacre's character, an unnamed employee alleges that he has 'the biggest office in the universe; you sink into the shagpile; he's got a desk like Napoleon'. I am no expert on Napoleonic workstations, but I can confirm that Dacre's desk appears normal and his carpet, last time I looked, had cropped tufts. These are tiny quibbles, but such misleading details convey a false impression of vulgar opulence."

Now, I don't know if Ms Riddell is pitching for her job at the Mail back, because any impression of 'vulgar opulence' is definitely not false. Having worked at the Mail myself a few years ago, I can tell you that the other senior executives get offices a provincial travel agent would consider dowdy and utilitarian: all grey walls and MDF. Dacre's office, on the other hand, is tastefully decorated in cream and red and even has country-house style sofas. The desk itself might not be Napoleonic, but at least it appears to be made of wood, unlike some of the others.

Best Wishes, An Arcatiste

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Alfie Allen's penis makes its debut in Equus

Alfie Allen's penis has made its stage debut at Chichester in Equus. To the charge of phallocentricity, a naked Laura O'Toole serves as a useful counter-balance. A front row critic tells Arcati: "His penis acquitted itself well in the circumstances, not embarrassing its owner or the audience with any notice-me antics. Though the actors emitted a certain amount of noise (as is their scripted wont), and shifted about the stage to maintain a sense of momentum, his penis was the star of the show as mute eye candy, just hanging there - sometimes dancing about in livelier moments - as unboxered penises do. From a dramatic perspective, his penis is rather like Lady Bracknell's handbag* - an inanimate** MacGuffin - though in this instance, seen but not talked about, whereas the handbag is unseen but much talked about."
*A handbag? Click here
**Inanimate as in "appearing dead; not breathing or having no perceptible pulse."
PS: I wonder why Princess Perez and Heat think posting a bunch of pics of a naked actor is "pervy"? Find their sites and espy their prose blushes, poor things. But publishing female tit and puby beaver is OK, not pervy. Odd that. Anyone would think they take their daily catechism from Old (Mr) Murdoch, the high priest of Perpetual Scrotism.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Heath Ledger drugs party video

News footage about the Heath Ledger drugs video taken at Chateau Marmont, click here. Entertainment Tonight and The Insider refuse to show the film "out of respect to the actor" which is total bullshit. They have simply yielded to pressure from Los Angeles-based PR company ID-PR, which emailed Hollywood about the "sensationalism" of showing the footage, and to reported calls by major Hollywood stars demanding censorship in effect. The Tinseltown tribe is protecting one of its own and fig-leafing the huge drugs culture that fuels the movie industry. Yet in five minutes' time a Hollywood Heath Ledger biopic will be announced promising lots of drug party scenes. The hypocrisy! - I love it!

Martin Amis on £3,000 an hour ....

... at Manchester Uni. Yum yum.